August 23, 2017

At the Green Café...


... keep the conversation fresh and vital and moist.

And would it kill you to do some shopping through The Althouse Amazon Portal?

"It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled."

"It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching, well, what would you do? Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly, ‘back up you creep, get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women but you can’t intimidate me, so back up.’"

So Hillary admits that she couldn't think of what to do under pressure. She needs a pause button. Is that like a reset button? There's no such thing. I mean you can vandalize the hotel hot tub to get a plastic button to call whatever you want — the Make Me President button — but it doesn't work.

More from the leaked excerpts to the memoir we're not all going to buy when it comes out in a few weeks:
"I chose option A. I kept my cool, aided by a lifetime of dealing with difficult men trying to throw me off."
The writer assumes the reader will not immediately think: Bill Clinton!
"I did, however, grip the microphone extra hard," she wrote. 
The writer assumes the reader will not think: phallic symbol.
“I wonder, though, whether I should have chosen option B. It certainly would have been better TV. Maybe I have overlearned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist, smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world.”
If you present an endlessly smiling controlled face to the world and choose to say nothing, people won't know what you think, won't trust you, and — since you're asking to be our President — won't be able to rely on you to speak for us. If you're that afraid to come up with an apt response to someone who's being intimidating, how do you have what it takes to be President? You think if you said something, it might be bad, so best to say nothing?

Look how easy it was for George W. Bush to push back Al Gore's overbearing physical encroachment during a debate:

Perfect. That nod. Everyone laughed. Nobody thought Bush seemed unpresidentially peevish. I still laugh every time I play that clip. And I play it a lot.

The insanely awful Louise Linton.

The wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made such a preposterously bad Instagram post that you almost have to love her. Click to enlarge and read:

I mean, we haven't had anything like this for a long time. I was going to name some ladies of the past I'm reminded of, but I don't want to libel anybody. I'll just say it's nice to have a good old-fashioned rich bitch to be horrified by.

I'll just link to Robin Givhan's piece in The Washington Post — "Louise Linton just spelled out her value system for you common folk," noting, among other things, that Linton has taken her account private and apologized.

Should Louise Linton have apologized? Pick what most closely shows what you think. free polls

WaPo's Dana Milbank has a urine-filled column about Bannon and Trump.

Dana Milbank reached all the way back to potty-mouthed Lyndon Johnson for a quote: "it’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in." (LBJ was talking about J. Edgar Hoover.)

Now, I know from having read Robert A. Caro's "Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson III" that if you want to talk about politics and piss, LBJ is a good source. It's always amusing to whip this out:
“He would piss in the parking lot of the House Office Building,” says Wingate Lucas, a farm boy who represented Fort Worth. “Well, a lot of fellows did that. I did it. But the rest of us would try to hide behind a car or something. Lyndon wouldn’t. He just didn’t care if someone noticed him.” In fact, Lucas says, he seemed to want to be noticed. “I remember once, we were walking across the lot and some [female] secretaries were behind us, and he just stopped and began to take a piss right in front of them.” He would also urinate in front of his own secretaries— and since some of them were attractive young women, this, too, was startling to those who witnessed it. During the years in the House, he had a one-room hideaway office on the top floor of the House Office Building— without a toilet, but with a washbasin in the corner of the room, concealed behind a wood and green-burlap screen. While entertaining guests in the hideaway, or dictating to a secretary, he would pull the screen aside and urinate in the basin... And if ... a colleague came in, Johnson, finishing, would sometimes turn to him with his penis in his hand. Without putting it back in his pants, he would begin a conversation, still holding it, “and shaking it, as if he was showing off,” says one man with whom he did this. He asked another man, “Have you ever seen anything as big as this?”
Yes, LBJ — a Democrat, you know — was awfully crude, so how can Dana Milbank re-aim him so his piss witticism is about Trump and Bannon? Unlike LBJ with Hoover, Trump didn't keep Bannon on the inside.
And now Bannon, who only last week was boasting that his rivals within the administration were “wetting themselves,” is on the outside, fly unzipped.
Milbank must know that he looks crude and childish speaking of Bannon unzipping his fly, because he goes to the trouble of digging up something Bannon once said about peeing. It wasn't about peeing on anybody, just "wetting themselves." That's similar to Obama's famous quote about people in Washington getting "all wee-weed up."

Having established his piss metaphor, Milbank proceeds to describe the headlines at as "a rhetorical golden shower." Milbank tries to wring comedy out of the piss he's given himself permission to splash everywhere, but he dribbles out stuff like:
Which way the flow goes now in these early days of the post-Bannon White House could well be determinative — not just for the Trump presidency but for the country as it grapples with a reemergence of white supremacists. 
He should have grappled with the flaccid structure of that sentence. He forced me to think about Bannon's cock peeing and the meat of the sentence is "could well be determinative." Didn't his writing class ever mention strong verbs? The closest he gets to piss-related strong language is "flow goes," a dumb unintentional rhyme.

Now, anything he writes that seems pee-related is going to stick out like Jumbo. (That's what LBJ called that thing about which he asked a guy if he'd ever seen anything as big as.) So it's piss I picture when Milbank writes "Can Trump control the wave of racism he has released?" And it's genitalia on view at the mention of "Bannon’s cockamamie idea," and the idea has to do with Blackwater, which seems like something one ought to consult a doctor about.

August 22, 2017

At the Green Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

And please consider using The Althouse Amazon Portal.

By a vote of 3-to-2 vote, the Supreme Court of India invalidated the law that let Muslim men divorce their wife by saying "talaq" (divorce) 3 times.

The NYT reports:
Of those who voted against, two said the practice was unconstitutional and one said it went against Islamic law. One of the dissenters was a Muslim judge; the other was the court’s chief justice, who urged Parliament to come up with a new provision.
That is, only a minority said it was a violation of the constitutional right to equality. Moreover, the tone was, according to one law professor, demeaning to women:
“The patronizing tone towards Muslim women in all the opinions is quite breathtaking,” Ratna Kapur, a law professor and author of a forthcoming book on gender and human rights, wrote on Facebook. “Women are talked about as if they are in need of protection, not in terms of their rights.”

She added, “Nearly every reference to the Muslim woman in the majority and dissenting opinions reduces Muslim women to ‘suffering victims.’ ”

McMaster used a 1972 black-and-white photo of 3 Afghan women in mini skirts to persuade Trump about Afghanistan.

According to The Daily Mail.

The Daily Mail is extracting a tidbit from an WaPo article titled "'It’s a hard problem’: Inside Trump’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan":
One of the ways McMaster tried to persuade Trump to recommit to the effort was by convincing him that Afghanistan was not a hopeless place. He presented Trump with a black-and-white snapshot from 1972 of Afghan women in miniskirts walking through Kabul, to show him that Western norms had existed there before and could return.
Second-highest-rated comment at The Daily Mail: "Gee - maybe if someone sends him pictures of short-skirted nurses in Sweden, we'll get single-payer health care..."

Breitbart — now with Bannon — covers Trump's Afghanistan speech.

A screen shot of the front page right now:

Key word: "Flip-flop."

Seemingly ready-made joke that contains a pop-culture reference you might need to be over 40 to get: "…HIS MCMASTER’S VOICE."

Whether you get the reference or not, you might be interested to know that Wikipedia has a page for "His Master's Voice":
His Master's Voice, abbreviated HMV, is a famous trademark in the music and recording industry and was the unofficial name of a major British record label [parent of RCA]. The name was coined in the 1890s as the title of a painting of a dog....

[T]he dog, a terrier named Nipper, had originally belonged to Barraud's brother, Mark. When Mark Barraud died, Francis inherited Nipper, with a cylinder phonograph and recordings of Mark's voice. Francis noted the peculiar interest that the dog took in the recorded voice of his late master emanating from the horn, and conceived the idea of committing the scene to canvas....

In 1968, RCA introduced a modern logo and restricted the use of Nipper to the album covers of Red Seal Records. The Nipper trademark was reinstated to most RCA record labels in the Western Hemisphere beginning in late 1976 and was once again widely used in RCA advertising throughout the late 1970s and 1980s....
"His Master's Voice" is also the title of a sci-fi book by Stanisław Lem:
It is a densely philosophical first contact story about an effort by scientists to decode, translate and understand an extraterrestrial transmission.... [T]he scientists are able to use part of the data to synthesize a substance with unusual properties. Two variations are created: a glutinous liquid nicknamed "Frog Eggs" and a more solid version that looks like a slab of red meat called "Lord of the Flies" (named for its strange agitating effect on insects brought into proximity with it, rather than for the allegorical meaning of the name).... "Frog eggs" seems to enable a teleportation of an atomic blast at the speed of light to a remote location, which would make deterrence impossible....

By the time the project is ended, they are no more sure than they were in the beginning about whether the signal was a message from intelligent beings that humanity failed to decipher, or a poorly understood natural phenomenon.
But back to Breitbart. It's easier to understand than Lem's frog eggs. I'm not going to read all these articles. As a collection of headlines, they make a spicy first page, but I'm just going to use a sampling method by clicking on one. I choose "Flynn: An Old Casino King Doubles Down on a Bad Hand in Afghanistan." Flynn is a Daniel J. Flynn, not Michael Flynn, the general who used to have Trump's ear, and the headline distracted me into thinking Trump's old confidant had taken a swipe at him. No sooner do I succumb to the click than I get the feeling there's nothing here that isn't already understood from the headline, which now looks like a one-liner for a late-night talk-show host.

But Trump himself introduced the idea that he's playing a card game. From the text of the speech:
No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia, but we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions. When I became President, I was given a bad and very complex hand, but I fully knew what I was getting into: big and intricate problems. But, one way or another, these problems will be solved -- I'm a problem solver -- and, in the end, we will win.
He didn't say "I was dealt a bad and very complex hand," nor did he say "we will play to win." He didn't stress the card-playing metaphor, and but — by using the word "hand" — Trump played into the hands of comedians and headline writers who easily connect his presidential rhetoric to his old work in the gambling business.

The term "double down" comes from blackjack: "to double the bet after one has seen the initial cards, with the requirement that one and only one additional card be drawn." That's the OED, which explains the extended use: "to engage in risky behaviour, esp. when one is already in a dangerous situation." I'm fascinated by one of the examples, from a 1991 set of essays by Joseph Epstein called "Line Out of a Walk."

Epstein's weird title is easily understood once you learn that the artist Paul Klee described how he draws by saying, "I take a line out for a walk." And if that interests you, remember I have a whole series of blog posts called "How to draw/paint like Paul Klee," including "Approximating biomorphs," which sounds frog-egg-related, and see how this blog post is taking a line out for a walk?

Anyway, Epstein's quote, illustrating how to use "double down," is "Let me double down..and see if I can't win some points for being a racist by asserting that, for some while now, black men have worn hats with more flair than anyone else in America."

And that's where this walk abruptly ends, because Amazon's "look inside" feature excludes the page with that quote and there's no Kindle edition. I'll just assume the venerable essayist is only joking about being a racist, back in 1991 when smart white people were comfortable with the notion that everyone is racist and exposing a detail of one's own particular racism felt like a mark of sophistication. 

"That was what she did. She just wandered places. She trusted somebody, and then this is what happened."

Said Christopher Harress‏, a colleague of the 30-year-old free-lance reporter Kim Wall who took a ride on a "personal submarine" and never returned, quoted in "A man accused of killing a journalist on his private submarine ‘buried her at sea,’ police say" (WaPo).

The "inventor" of the submarine, Peter Madsen, says she died in an accident.
Before his story changed, Madsen told police that he dropped Wall off from the ship late on Aug. 10, and later barely made it after the ballast tank malfunctioned and the Nautilus sank in less than a minute. “I couldn’t close any hatches or anything,” Madsen told a Danish television station.

But a witness contradicted this. He told reporters that he saw Madsen emerge from the belly of the vessel and stay in the submarine's tower until water began pouring into it. Only then did Madsen swim to a nearby boat, the witness said. “There was no panic at all,” he told a Danish outlet. “The man was absolutely calm.”

The Washington Post takes Daily Caller click bait... probably because Chelsea Clinton got something right.

You don't have to click on any of this:

1. The Daily Caller: "It’s High Time Barron Trump Starts Dressing Like He’s In the White House." (The occasion: Barron Trump, wearing a T-shirt and shorts, was photographed walking with his parents from Air Force One after some trip from New Jersey back to Washington. Barron's mother is wearing a sun dress (with the usual high heels) and his father is wearing the same thing he always wears. The Daily Caller refers to Melania and Donald's clothes as "their Sunday best" — an old-fashioned expression that isn't even accurate, since bare shoulders are a traditional no-no for church.)

2. Chelsea Clinton tweeted (linking to The Daily Caller): "It's high time the media & everyone leave Barron Trump alone & let him have the private childhood he deserves."

3. The Washington Post followed on with: "Chelsea Clinton defends Barron Trump after conservative website bashes his clothes."

August 21, 2017

Trump's Afghanistan speech.

Chasing a break in the clouds to get a look at the 85% solar eclipse.

It was overcast here today in Madison, so we jumped in the car and headed for the blue:


About 40 minutes north we pulled over where if all else failed we still had a great look at the prairie:


We got a nice crisp view of the eclipse using the glasses I'd picked up at Walmart. I shared my glasses with Meade and with a nice couple from Mineral Point who happened to drive up. After the peak of the eclipse, we drove a short distance to Palfrey's Glen, where the eclipse affected the dappling light:


And we hiked all the way to the waterfall, where a big patch of light gave an excellent view of the last part of the eclipse:


On the way back home, we took the Merrimac Ferry across Lake Wisconsin:


Did you break all the rules and look at the sun? Trump did!

Pics, at CNN, of the Prez squinting at the famous disc of fire.

"Even talking about this… Men get so mad when they hear women talk about them this way. They get so defensive."

I watched that video a few days ago, and it's haunting me. Something about the demeanor of the 2 women — Amanda Marcotte and Fiona Helmsley — is just so weirdly enervated as they bemoan the deplorable energy ("fragility") of men.

More transcript here, at Salon:
I think the single greatest threat, and I’ll say to humanity, at the moment is male fragility, and men just not being able to process their feelings of insecurity, their feelings of anger....

What they were chanting in Charlottesville: ‘You will not replace us.’ Who is trying? Who is trying to replace you?...

I think it’s just the way that society raises them. Women are raised to have some concern about the way that they look, and they’re encouraged to be more sensitive. A lot of men aren’t....
So they're taking the nurture side of the old nature-or-nurture argument. And they're happier with women because they've been nurtured to care about how they look? Shouldn't a feminist oppose the nurturing of women to care about how they look and whether they're "more sensitive"? That sounds as though low-level vanity is meritorious.

And oddly enough those Charlottesville Alt-Right guys were concerned about how they look. There's this (in Vice):
... Andrew Anglin, who runs the popular hate site the Daily Stormer, published a truly astounding blog post... that explains how the movement he helped build should market itself [at the Charlottesville rally]....

"It may be a trend, but I can’t be the only person to find the term ‘cougar’ repulsive."

"It’s predatory, naff, insulting to the woman and the man. And ‘toyboy’ isn’t exactly complimentary to anyone, either. (A boy to be toyed with? No, thanks.) Instead, I’m going to campaign for older women who are dating younger men to henceforth be called WHIPs – Women who are Hot, Intelligent and in their Prime. And the men shall be called really bloody lucky."

From "Now I'm in my 50s, young men want to date me: Welcome to the world of WHIPS" (in The Telegraph).

Nuclear enthusiasm posters from North Korea.

More at "With Color and Fury, Anti-American Posters Appear in North Korea" (NYT).
“What is typical in these posters is the image of an undaunted, fierce North Korea that is not fazed by the moves by the United States or the United Nations,” Koen de Ceuster, an expert on North Korea at Leiden University in the Netherlands, told Reuters.

“It reinforces the images of the strides North Korea made in missile capability,” he said, “and how North Korea is undaunted by any challenges to its sovereignty.”

"This is the second time in the past two months where a US guided-missile destroyer has been involved in a collision in the region."

"In June, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine container ship off the coast of Japan. Seven navy sailors were killed, and two senior officers and the senior enlisted sailor on the Fitzgerald were removed after the incident."

And, in the past 24 hours, "Five US Navy sailors are injured and another 10 missing after guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain collided with an oil tanker early on Monday morning (Aug 21) off the coast of Singapore."

How are accidents like this possible? 

I'm worried someone is messing with our navigation systems.
etbass said:
Starting to look like the US Navy is pretty vulnerable to fairly primitive battle tactics that have been around a couple millennia.
Which seems more likely to you: free polls

I served in the Navy and spent many hours doing underway deck watches as an officer. I would like to know exactly what the deck watches were doing during the 30 minutes prior to the collisions. Were the watchers distracted? Internet surfing? Chatting up enlisted sea(wo)men?

Published comments after the first one gave us no information other than the heroics after the collision.
Much as we should feel concern for the personnel who are injured, missing, or killed, we should resist being manipulated by demands to pay attention only to that and not to the serious questions about why this has happened twice now.

"But seeing this film was really awe-inspiring, in that you are rarely in the presence of the perfect object."

"This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is."

Said Harry Shearer, one of the few people who have actually seen the long-suppressed "The Day the Clown Cried." The movie, directed by Jerry Lewis, starred Jerry Lewis as a comedian who made fun of Hitler and got arrested and forced to entertain children in a Nazi death camp.
Lewis biographer Shawn Levy probably sums it up for many of us when he says the interest in Clown is the “the inconceivable oddness of it. Jerry Lewis is still such a strange and singular bird that I think the very concept is intriguing. And the people who’ve seen the film and spoken about it – Harry Shearer, say – are so vivid in their description that they’ve made it a holy grail. Plus, the fascination with grindhouse, Ed Wood, and movies so bad they’re good (a dubious category) virtually insures there’s a cult for something like this.”
Here's Jerry Lewis saying it will never be seen because it's bad and he's embarrassed by it and he's grateful he had the power to suppress it.

But he didn't destroy it, and in fact he donated it, along with other films, to the Smithsonian, and the instructions are simply that it not be shown until at least 2025. And Lewis once said:
“After I’m gone, who knows what’s going to happen? The only thing that I do feel, that I always get a giggle out of, some smart, young guy is going to come up with an idea, and he’s going to run the fucking thing. I would love that. Because he’s going to see a hell of a movie!”
He's gone now, so maybe we will see it. I've expressed my opinion before (in 2013):
Even if it was in the end, a terrible idea — but wasn't it basically the idea in "Life Is Beautiful"? — can't we see it now, with the understanding that it was a mistake and extract the good and learn from the lesson about what badness is?
It ended with a notoriously cringe-inducing scene of cavorting clown Lewis leading the laughing kids into the gas chamber. Overcome by the grief of what he is being forced to do, he chooses to stay in the gas chamber with them as they are killed.
Let us see it. Of all the Nazi-related things to be ashamed of... maybe this excessive shame about bad art is shameful. Or is it the other way around... and more bad art should be destroyed before anyone can see it?

The sun rises again, not knowing or caring...

... about the United States, where millions are motoring to position themselves in a shadow the moon will cast — for a couple minutes — on a place called the United States.


That's a photograph I took just now from our backyard in Madison, Wisconsin. The sky was very orange at that moment, but the orange has dissipated in the couple minutes it's taken me to get the picture up here.

Yes, we will not be among the millions in the moon shadow. It's not that we didn't plan. We were onto the eclipse very early and had hotel reservations in Boise, Idaho, which looks like just about the best place to be. But we canceled. It was one of the many things we could have done, but clouds got in the way.

ADDED: I seriously considered hopping in the car and barreling down to Nebraska — not worrying about hotels, just sleeping in the car when necessary. But here's the morning weather report for Nebraska:
The morning showers and thunderstorms could leave some significant cloud cover over parts of the region through Monday afternoon, leading to potentially difficult eclipse viewing in some locations, the National Weather Service office in Valley said. However, a few breaks in the clouds cannot be ruled out. In southeast Nebraska, there is a good chance of high-level clouds, but they may be thin and broken with peeks at the sky possible. Looks at the sky may be more possible closer to the Interstate 80 corridor and north, the weather service said.
That's where I'd be, on I-80. But what's I-80 going to be like today — especially if people start chasing the breaks in the clouds? I'm picturing people pulling over everywhere on I-80 and then just even stopping right in the lanes and the whole thing becoming an insane parking lot. Then everyone runs out of gas, including the gas stations, and we have to wait until the federal government saves us.

At CNN, it says:
"This will be like Woodstock 200 times over -- but across the whole country," said Alex Young, solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
I missed the real Woodstock too. I had a ride and all, but I couldn't afford the $17 ticket and how was I to know people would just tear down the fences and get in free? And yet my friend who would have driven me there came home and told me that with all the rain and mud it was impossible to enjoy "unless you were part pig."

August 20, 2017

The great Jerry Lewis has died!

NYT obit.
A mercurial personality who could flip from naked neediness to towering rage, Mr. Lewis seemed to contain multitudes, and he explored all of them. His ultimate object of contemplation was his own contradictory self, and he turned his obsession with fragmentation, discontinuity and the limits of language into a spectacle that enchanted children, disturbed adults and fascinated postmodernist critics.
ADDED: I like this 1995 interview (with Charles Grodin, whose show I, unlike most people, loved):

And here's the car chase scene from "The Disorderly Orderly," which I saw when I was 13:

That scene revealed a whole new dimension of hilarity to me. I'd had no idea how funny something could be — just waves and waves of funnier and funnier. With possibly one exception, it's the most I ever laughed at a movie.

AND: Here's the Marc Maron interview with Jerry Lewis.